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  • Jonah Goldberg, still a god-awful media critic

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    I recently dissected Goldberg's dreadful media critique published over at USA Today last week, noting that in order to prove Obama's has had a press honeymoon Goldberg had to stoop to inventing news invents. Never a good sign when you're pretending to be a media critique.

    Goldberg has responded over NRO and it's telling he never even addressed the fact that I called him out for concocting a story about how Obama allegedly "walked into an Oval Office window." Goldberg used that as a pillar in his column to illustrate how the press looked away when Obama goofed. But Obama never did what Goldberg claimed he did, which is why the press never covered the fabricated story. (A radical idea, I know.) I highlighted that fact in my column and Goldberg, tellingly, doesn't want to touch it in his response.

    I also called Goldberg out for making a false statement in the very first sentence of his column when he claimed that Obama has been "relentlessly" comparing himself to FDR. As I noted, Obama had occasionally evoked FDR, as is custom for new Democratic presidents, but there was simply no evidence to claim that Obama himself has been "relentlessly" comparing himself to FDR.

    On that point, Goldberg claims I got it wrong, that Obama has "relentlessly" compared himself to FDR. Goldberg's entire proof? A 60 Minutes interview when Obama said this:

    There's a new book out about FDR's first 100 days and what you see in FDR that I hope my team can— emulate, is not always getting it right, but projecting a sense of confidence, and a willingness to try things.

    In order to prove that Obama has "relentlessly" compared himself to FDR, Goldberg points to a single interview where Obama, just as I said, had evoked FDR.

    Now might be a good time for Goldberg to reflect on the difference between Obama occasionally mentioning FDR, and Obama "relentlessly" comparing himself to FDR. In his USA Today column, Goldberg claimed the latter. In his response to me, Goldberg tries to document the former. (Note that Goldberg, king of the strawmen, spends the bulk of his defense documenting something I never even disputed; that pundits and supporters have compared Obama to FDR.)

    Meanwhile Jonah, if you ever try to explain away that Obama-walked-into-a-window story you invented, let me know and I'll be sure to post it.

    UPDATE: Note that in his USA Today column, Goldberg, as proof of the Obama honeymoon, pointed to CNN's John King who claimed at the time of inauguration that "nobody disputed" that journalists had become caught up in the historic nature of Obama's victory. (A quote I was originally unable to confirm.)

    Goldberg pointed to the King quote as an ah-ha! moment: Even journalists admitted they were being soft on Obama! First, note the King quote was from before Obama had even been sworn in and Goldberg used it in a column about Obama's press coverage after he became president.

    But more importantly, in my piece when I quoted several Beltway journalists in recent days, including one from the conservative Washington Times, insisting Obama's honeymoon was over, Goldberg dismisses that as pointless. In his defense to my column he wrote:

    [Boehlert] cites as proof the press has been hard on Obama, inside the beltway "chatter" about how the press has been hard on Obama. Obviously, we should take the press corps own back-patting as proof of the yeoman work they've been doing.

    Do you see the unique Goldberg logic? When a Beltway journalist like CNN's King suggests there might be a honeymoon, it's proof positive and everybody should take note. But when other Beltway journalists subsequently report honeymoon's over, that's irrelevant because you can't trust Beltway journalists to tell the truth.

  • More unintentional comedy from Newsbusters

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    It seems like every day the good folks over at the Media Research Center give us something new to laugh at. Today, it's the latest in their increasingly comical obsession with George Stephanopoulos.

    When we last checked in on their crusade to get the ABC host fired for having conversations with longtime friends, MRC's Brent Bozell was making a fool of himself by bellowing that the network had refused to comment on Stephanopoulos' phone calls. What was wrong with Bozell's claim? Well, ABC had, in fact publicly commented on the matter ... and, it turns out, they had reached out to MRC employees, and given an on-the-record comment to an MRC subsidiary, which then spiked the article in question -- probably so they wouldn't undermine Bozell's claims that ABC refused to talk.

    ConWebWatch has details on MRC's efforts to spin themselves out of that mess.

    Today, MRC announced on its Newsbusters blog that "MRC has released a new Profile in Bias for the "This Week" host." And what do they choose to highlight as the definitive evidence of Stephanopoulos' "bias"? Take a look:

    "[I]n his on-air role at ABC, Stephanopoulos has been a reliable mouthpiece for the Democratic spin of the day — using his perch as an analyst and correspondent to add an extra boost to liberals, undermine conservatives and push a liberal policy agenda," the profile notes before listing scores of examples, such this one from March 18, 2008, wherein Stephanopoulos lauded Obama for refusing to castigate his former pastor:

    By refusing to renounce Reverend Wright, that was in many ways an act of honor for Senator Obama.

    Now, here's the full Stephanopoulos quote in question:


    I think it's enough to reassure the relatively affluent, liberals and independents, who are already with Barack Obama. They might have been worried, but this reassured them. He's been having a bigger problem with white, working-class voters. And the problem - the fact that Senator Obama sat in those pews for 20 years is not going to sit well with them. A speech probably can't solve that. But also, Charlie, this speech today, by refusing to renounce Reverend Wright, that was, in many ways, an act of honor, for Senator Obama. And it's hard to know how that's going to play out with voters, but it has to count for something.

    That's right: Stephanopoulos said Obama was having a "bigger problem with white, working class voters" who were unhappy that he "sat in those pews for 20 years" and didn't solve the problem with a speech. Now, does that really sound like Stephanopoulos was acting as a "reliable mouthpiece for the Democratic spin of the day"? Of course not. You'd have to be paranoid, or intentionally dishonest, to describe that as shilling for Obama.

    What's even more pathetic about MRC's use of that Stephanopoulos line to prove his supposed liberal bias is that it came right around the time the ABC host was asking questions of Obama on behalf of Sean Hannity. Stephanopoulos' handling of that debate came under withering criticism from a variety of observers who thought he and debate co-moderator Charlie Gibson obsessed over trivia and were unduly harsh on Obama.

    At this point, I can only assume MRC is actively trying to discredit themselves.

  • The real story behind HuffPo's q at the presidential presser

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Greg Sargent has a good write-up on Sam Stein's question at last night's prime-time Presidential press conference. Noting the real innovation behind The Huffington Post reporter's turn in the spotlight had more to do with what the outlets are doing online than the ideology of their reporters:

    Some at the traditional news orgs are likely to see this decision as proof that the White House is determined to make use of an evolving Web-based apparatus of lefty news orgs that's supposedly more committed to advancing a partisan agenda than to doing balanced journalism. Whatever the White House's motives, the point is that some traditional journalists are likely to see the decision through the prism of their own presumed journalistic superiority.

    But the real innovation isn't in what Obama did. It's in what outlets like HuffPo are doing. Places like HuffPo and my alma mater, Talking Points Memo, are striving to demonstrate that it needn't necessarily be mutually exclusive to care along with your audience what happens in politics -- to have a predisposition towards one outcome or another -- while simultaneously doing real journalism. This innovation isn't wholly confined to the left, though even some conservatives admit that it's more advanced on the liberal side.

    Stein writes for an outlet whose predispositions are well known, but he produces fair, even-handed, thoroughly reported pieces. In other words, he's a legit reporter. And so ultimately it's perfectly natural that Obama took his question.

  • WSJ: Obama still hasn't changed everything

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    This is becoming somewhat comical the way members of the press are noting that three weeks into his first term Obama has failed to make all sorts of sweeping political, cultural and diplomatic changes.

    From a Journal column by Bret Stephens which, yes, sorta reads like The Onion:

    Barack Obama has now been president for 21 days, following an inauguration that was supposed to have pressed the reset button on America's relations with the wider world and ushered in a new period of global cooperation against common threats.

    See? Obama hasn't substantively altered America's relations round the world in three weeks time. Fraud!

  • New Deal gets Raw Deal from the right

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Pam's House Blend picks up on the right's revisionist New Deal history as does Down with Tyranny who notes:

    ...their latest assault on reality, echoed by Limbaugh's cadres in Congress: The New Deal Was A Failure. Franklin D Roosevelt won his first term against a pillar of Republicanism, incumbent reactionary Republican Herbert Hoover. Hoover managed to garner 59 electoral votes against FDR's 472. At that point Roosevelt embarked upon the most successful economic recovery plan in the history of the United States, the New Deal, meant to lift the country out of the Depression that decades of unregulated right-wing economic policies had caused.

    When Roosevelt ran for re-election in 1936, his opponent, Kansas Governor Alf Landon, a tax cuttin' anti labor union fanatic, only managed to win two states, Maine and Vermont (8 electoral votes). He even lost Kansas. FDR's 523 electoral votes also saw the Republican Senate caucus drop down 16 members. In the House the GOP managed to hold onto 88 seats (20%). Although Republicans were screaming the same tired anti-working family nonsense then that they're screaming now, the voters, cognizant of their unblemished record of dismal failure, were ignoring them.

    In 1940 the GOP candidate, Wendell Wilkie, campaigning on a platform calling the New Deal inefficient and corrupt and not subservient enough to Big Business, led the GOP to another well-earned electoral catastrophe. The only states he won were Maine, Vermont, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado, for a total of 82 electoral votes (to Roosevelt's 449). Roosevelt's last run, in 1944, was against Thomas Dewey, who wound up with 99 electoral votes (to FDR's 432) after he added "communism" to the charges Wilkie had run on against the New Deal.

    My column this week was on this very subject. If you've not yet seen this great video of MSNBC's David Shuster and Newsweek's Jonathan Alter discussing right-wing attacks on the New Deal, check it out:

  • Putting the "max" in Newsmax

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Newsmax's Ronald Kessler has a problem with the facts as ConWebWatch notes today:

    ...in his Feb. 9 column, in which he quotes Ken Klukowski, " a legal expert who consults for major conservative interest groups," as saying of Obama: "Remember, Barack Obama has spoken out in terms of redistributive justice and considered it a shame that the Warren Court, which is the most liberal court in American history, did not engage in wealth redistribution."

    That is false -- Obama never said that. As we've repeatedly noted, the context of Obama's words clearly demonstrate that he said the civil rights movement relied too much on the court system to advance its agenda instead of promoting change from the bottom up, i.e., legislatively, and that the Warren Court did not address it was a sign that it was not as radical as right-wingers have claimed it to be.

    In a Feb. 10 column, Kessler uncritically passes along a claim by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan that "spending stimuluses were tried in Japan in the 1990s and in America in the 1930s, but they never have worked." In fact, as Media Matters has pointed out, New Deal and Japanese stimulus packages were shown to fail only when their implementation was abandoned in an attempt to reduce deficits.

    Perhaps ConWebWatch is unaware that the "max" in "Newsmax" refers to their "max"imum use of false and misleading information in their so-called reporting.

    Note: ConWebWatch's Terry Krepel is a senior editor at Media Matters.

  • ABC's The Note quickly moves the goal posts

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Having helped lead the Beltway media charge in the Obama's-losing-the-message-war brigade surrounding the stimulus bill, The Note, conceding that Obama's Monday night press conference helped changed the dynamics of that message war, quickly shifts gears and today starts hyping Obama doom-and-gloom surrounding the bank bailout legislation:

    President Obama can still dictate a message -- as Monday's hour-long primetime news conference (just 13 questions, with answers as mini-lectures) clearly showed. But he has a long way to go before Washington will be his -- as the narrow Senate vote, and the tenuous compromise that's emerging out of Congress, show equally well.

    As for what he needs Washington to come through on -- that gets even more complicated Tuesday. Now the president needs the nation to swallow not just an $800 billion stimulus package, but more help for banks (rivals of Congress in the race for low approval ratings these days).

    Did you notice how Obama's been president three full weeks and Washington still is not yet his? (What's wrong with this guy!?) BTW, love the doomsday "narrow Senate vote" language. Because in case you already forgot, the senate vote on closure for the stimulus bill was 61-36.

  • Scary rhetoric?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The Politico's Roger Simon claims that in order to gin up support for the stimulus bill Obama has to try to scare Americans straight [emphasis added]:

    He must simultaneously petrify people and also restore their confidence. He must scare us to death and calm our fears. He must convince the nation that the times are so dire we must carry out his bold plans immediately, and then he must persuade us to be patient and give his plans time to work.

    This echoes the right-wing media chatter about how Obama is supposedly fear-mongering the issue of the economy; how he's spooking out Americans who, apparently, would otherwise be unconcerned about the state of the country's finances.

    Not quite. Last month--and before Obama started allegedly fear-mongering the issue--pollsters with the Diegeo/Hotline survey asked voters:

    Which of the following would you say best describes the current economic situation in the United States? The biggest economic crisis the U.S. has faced in your lifetime. A crisis, but not the worst in your lifetime. A major problem, but not a crisis. OR, Not a major problem.

    An astonishing 60 percent of voters said the current situation represented the worst financial crisis the country had faced in their lifetime. Just 18 percent thought it was not a problem.

    There's no proof Obama has to "scare" anybody.

  • Wash. Times' Curl disproves his own attacks on Obama

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Even by Washington Times standards, Joseph Curl's column today is notable for its use of completely bogus assertions in order to try to make Barack Obama look bad.

    Take a look at this passage, for example:

    None of it mattered, though, because Mr. Obama called reporters from a list on the podium, and reporters buzzed afterward about how he didn't seem to know a single reporter he called on - at least in the front row.

    "And let me go to Jennifer Loven at AP," the president said, looking to his left, and then back a row or two before finding the AP reporter front and center, about eight feet from the podium. "Ah, there you are."

    "Caren Bohan of Reuters?" he said after finishing a long economics tutorial. He looked left and right before finding the red-headed reporter - right next to Miss Loven.

    "All right. Chuck Todd. Where's Chuck?" Mr. Obama said before finding the goateed reporter in the third row. "Ed Henry. Where's Ed? CNN. There he is," he said shortly after Mr. Henry stood up. "Major Garrett. Where is Major?" he said before finding the reporter back in the cheap seats.

    Curl claims the buzz was that Obama didn't seem to know the reporters he called on. But the evidence he provides actually proves the opposite. Curl thinks he's describing Obama not knowing who the reporters are - but he isn't; he's describing Obama not knowing where the reporters are sitting. Indeed, Curl's examples indicate that Obama does know the reporters - if he didn't know who they are, he wouldn't have found them.

    Elsewhere, Curl complains that "Sam Stein of the archly liberal Huffington Post" and the "unabashedly liberal" Ed Schultz were seated in the front row. But Curl's complaint isn't that ideological reporters were seated in the front row; his complaint is that liberal reporters were in the front row. See, Curl is also upset that "Fox News' Major Garrett was dispatched to the fourth row, far to the right of the presidential podium." Given Fox's track record, they should be relieved that anyone still plays along with the idea that they're a news organization rather than annoyed that they had to suffer the indignity of sitting in the fourth row at a press conference.

    Finally, Curl lead his column with several paragraphs about members of the black press who were upset that they didn't get to ask a question. Curl noted:

    While most on the front row got to pose a question to President Obama, the two reporters from the black press did not. Nor did any other black-press reporter, for that matter.

    Now, that's fine as far as it goes, and Curl presumably didn't make up the quotes he included from two reporters complaining that they didn't get to ask a question. But it is more than a little odd that Curl didn't note until the very end of the column, after the nonsense about Obama not knowing the reporters that he called on, that Obama took questions from two black reporters:

    The president ticked through all the usual suspects, calling on the three wires and all five networks before hitting The Washington Post and New York Times, both of whom sent black reporters. The only other question from outside the box was from NPR.

    "Mara Liasson?" the president said as he scanned the crowd.

    Politico is amplifying Curl's column (can Drudge be far behind?) -- and actually out-did Curl in one regard, asserting: "At the presser, one black reporter did get called on, The Wash Post's Michael Fletcher." Actually, it was two: Fletcher and Helene Cooper of the New York Times.